Future Infantry Anti-Armor Weapons

Commando mortars.
        The South Africans have a very nice 60mm commando mortar. It has a carrying handle at its centre of gravity that mounts the trigger and a bubble sight. More importantly it can be carried ready loaded.  

Commando mortar         In the event of an ambush the mortar-man simply drops the baseplate to the ground, aims and fires. Unless the mortar-man is one of the first casualties the unit can respond with mortar fire within seconds of being fired upon.    While useful for a platoon this is even more desirable for a small special operations unit that is usually out numbered and doesn't have higher echelon support.

        The use of mortars as Platoon or squad weapons may not be that familiar to many readers, so I'll briefly look at some of the better features from past and present models:

  • Best known weapon of this type is the Japanese 50mm Model 89 "Knee" mortar.
    The Model 89 had a mechanism for varying its chamber volume by rotation of a knurled knob. This allowed the user to alter range without changing elevation, a useful feature when firing through a hole in the jungle canopy.

            Note how the author remarks how rapidly ambushed Japanese would respond with mortar fire. This is borne out by other contemporary sources.  In addition to using mortar bombs the Model 89 could also fire the Model 91 hand grenade, which conserved ammo during shorter range engagements.   It is often not appreciated that because light mortars are trigger or lanyard fired they can be used at very low elevations. The Model 89 was often fired through the firing apertures of blockhouses.

  • The current British 51mm mortar is a simpler but slightly heavier weapon than the Model 89. By using a Short Range Insert (SRI) that increases chamber volume the minimum range is reduced from 150m to 50m.

  • The Belgium Fly-K mortar makes uses of a captive piston system that results in very little firing noise or flash. The Fly-K is a spigot mortar but it is possible a similar round could be made for conventional 60mm mortars too.

  • Certain Brandt models of commando mortars have a small bipod with "J" shaped legs. Elevation is changed by sliding the collar up or down the barrel. Such a device would be useful when in a defensive position since it allows the weapon to be kept aimed at a set range.

  • Some mortars have range markings on their carrying slings. The foot is placed on the correct marker and the muzzle raised till the sling is taunt, giving the correct elevation.  

        From the above brief descriptions it can be seen that the Commando mortar has considerable potential as a platoon support weapon. The following idea intends to expand this even further.

Special Operations Mortar.

        The US Army company mortar can be though of as a standard mortar that it is possible to use as a Commando. My idea is to instead have a Commando mortar that can be converted into a long-range mortar.  Vektor M6 Long range 60mm mortar Such a weapon is intended for use by units that have to carry a lot of other equipment or supplies. The mortar can be used in either Commando or long range configuration.   When on the move the mortar is carried in commando configuration to provide much needed fire support if attacked.

        The weapon can also be fitted with a baseplate, M252 style bipod and barrel extension to convert the weapon into a long-range 60mm mortar.. In this mode the assembled weapon can still be carried by one man for "shoot and scoot" operations.   The weapon can be used by Special forces for stand-off attacks on targets such as supply dumps or airfields. A range of specialised ammo can be developed for this role: such as, Hollow charge-Incendiary, Thermite, Thermobaric or Pyrogel.  

      A hardened cap could be fitted with to the noses of bombs so that they can punch through barriers such as roofing slates or the tops of soft-skin vehicles before detonation. Alternately a long, arrow-like bomb could be developed for better penetration. (Arrow shaped anti-concrete rounds may also be useful in larger mortars). Slower burning propellant charges will also utilise the greater potential that a longer barrel offers.   Another possibility is rounds that are designed to guide in strike aircraft. These may be radio homing beacons or time delayed flares that will attract IR and Electro-optically guided munitions.

Reference information:

                       Grenade launchers and their ammo.

Multiple Shot Grenade Guns.
        In some units the M203 should be replaced by a repeating grenade launcher. The South Africans use a revolver based model that has the merits of being both simple and combat proven. Such a design could easily incorporate a gas powered ejector mechanism. The chamber that this empties can be used to keep the weapon topped up without opening the cylinder. The weapon could also be loaded with two or three round clips.

        Saco Defence has already developed a Programmable Primed 40mm grenade for 40x53mm weapons so it is possible a 40x46mm round could be developed.   A revolver grenade launcher fitted with a Fuse setter interface may have a performance similar to the OICW. Such a weapon might later be modified to fire 20mm OICW rounds and this route may prove a simpler alternative to the self-loading OICW.

        For close combat a repeating grenade launcher loaded with canister could prove very useful.   In other situations the same weapon can be loaded with Baton and Gas rounds.   

        There are still applications where the M203 is a more appropriate weapon.  

One example is for a close quarter battle assault team- While the ability to put a grenade through a window at 125m is useful, a lot of combat will take place within the minimum range of the grenade gun. In such situations the weight of a multi-shot launcher might not be justified. The M203 weighs less and allows the grenadier keep his rifle or SMG ready for firing.
        Another application is for a scout or FAC team that mainly uses its grenade gun for marking targets, although the 3BT (see below) is a better choice for this.

Disposable Grenade Launchers
        Disposable Grenade Launchers (DGL) are a family of one shot disposable grenade launchers designed to fit to the Picantinny rail interface system of a rifle or SMG.

They can also be hand fired, mounted in batteries or utilised in booby traps.

        Disposable Launchers fill the same role as rifle grenades- they give each man in the squad grenade projecting ability and are a supplement to the 40mm grenade gun, not a replacement.
        They offer several advantages over grenade guns and rifle grenades:-

  • Unlike rifle grenades they can be carried "ready to fire" and still allow the rifle to be used.

  • When the launcher is not fitted the rifle is unencumbered and more responsive.

  • Tubes can be built that fire 40x46mm cartridges, conventional and rocket assisted rifle grenades or hand-grenades. The charges used to propel the latter can be optimised for the projectile rather than just being a blank or ball round.

  • They can use captive piston systems for low-noise flashless launch.

  • DGL can use fire rounds that cannot be launched from grenade guns.
                    Examples of these include-

    • Ring aerofoil grenades- for flat trajectory shooting of either riot control or explosive.

    • Multiple loadings -for example, an anti-ambush round consisting of a canister rounds and a Ring Aerofoil White Phosphorus grenade. Multiple loadings of M203 rounds are also possible.

    • An incendiary round based on the German Hafla DM 34.

    • A cartridge flow-stream flamethrower.

    • A Flame capsule grenade containing Thickened Pyrotechnic Agent.

    • Multi-shot canister loading (either multiple barrel or superimposed).

    • Grapple and line.

    • Underbarrel version of the Brunswick RAW.

    • A 7-9 barrelled "Volley Gun", each barrel loaded with several projectiles. This would offer a longer ranged alternative to canister with better penetration.

    Other potential rounds include:-

            DGLs loaded with OICW rounds may be possible, but unless the rifle is fitted with a Fuse Setting Interfacer these will only function as impact fused projectiles. A simple interface unit where the detonation range is manually selected could be fitted to a rifle or made part of the disposable unit.   

         It has been suggested to me that fired launchers should auto-eject from the rifle - this would be a good feature so long as this mechanism doesn't operate when the launchers are being fired handheld. 

         I've called these devices disposable; should be cheap enough to be treated as disposable but for training purposes they may be capable of being reloaded several times.

            A friend suggests an alternate strategy:-
    "These are a good enough idea that I suggest a small additional wrinkle: make two models.  M1 is a robust steel and alloy version that can be reloaded by the soldier. This is for economical training purposes.  M2 is a cheap plastic and fiberglass version, ideally w/ a break-apart feature that prevents it from ever being fired more than once. This is for advanced training and, esp., for war. If they're disabled by firing, no enemy can scavenge and reuse them, the way Charlie did much too well w/ discarded US ordnance in Nam.  Why a training version? Because men must practice w/ these weapons a lot" 


    The Big Boy's Bomb Thrower. (3BT)
            This is intended to combine the punch of a rifle grenade with the accuracy of a grenade gun.  I thought such a weapon might be useful in open terrain or against fast moving light vehicles. It may replace the light mortar on terrain that is too soft for such weapons.  The round I imagined originally resembled a modified rifle grenade mounted on a grenade gun case. Rocket assisted models would be possible.  The launcher is a single shot break open weapon with a straight-line layout, and an optic sight mounted halfway down the barrel. This arrangement allows the greatest flexibility over the form of rounds that can be chambered. Because the recoil would be greater than an M203, the furniture would be separated from the barrel by a recoil buffer and another buffer built into the butt.

            Since I first thought of this idea I've added a few refinements:-
    •         One is that the weapon might also make use of Ring Aerofoil grenades.

    •         The second is that such a launcher could also fire the same rounds as the MK-19 GMG.

            The user therefore has a choice of hard hitting, flat flying or long-range projectiles. I'd originally imagined the weapon as being of a greater calibre than an M203, though the use of Mk-19 rounds would necessitate a 40mm weapon. This should not be a problem since 40mm RAGs were used by helicopter gunships in Vietnam and many rifle grenades are of around 40mm. The same weapon may also be able to handle M203 rounds.   It is also possible that this weapon could be fitted with a discharger cup to fire larger projectiles.  I can see a 3BT and a couple of dozen assorted rounds being part of the standard equipment of vehicles on active service. It may also replace the platoon mortar. Its range and accuracy would make it the obvious choice for target marking teams.

    40mm Mortar
            40 x 53mm Grenades could be fired from a simple launcher of less than 4kg weight if only indirect fire was used.  Such a weapon would be simpler than a 3BT and could be created from a re-chambered M79 with the butt reshaped to prevent shoulder firing. Such a weapon would be useful to Scout platoons, allowing them to illuminate or mark targets at ranges in excess of 700m. A double barreled version of such a mortar would be possible. Batteries of such weapons would be useful anti-ambush devices for light vehicles.  

    AMR launched Rifle Grenades? 

         A option that has not been investigated with AMRs is their potential as grenade throwers.  When the WW2 German PZB 38/39 anti-tank rifle became obsolete many were fitted with cup dischargers so they could launch grenades, including the various hollow charge models coming into service.   To the best of my knowledge, spigot-tailed rifle grenades have not been built for AMRs, but the idea may have potential for both indirect and direct fire roles. Use of such grenades would give an AMR team an organic capability to illuminate distant targets during night actions.

    Specialised Grenade Rounds.

    Anti windscreen round    These are intended to be used in weapons such as the M203, the multi-shot grenade launcher and the Disposable Grenade Launcher.  One option is a very soft HESH round -probably too soft to feed through an automatic action. This flattens against the windscreen and is fired by an inertia fuse.  If this doesn't perform as expected then a warhead with three or more horns should be tried. This design has been used on crossbow quarrels and whaling harpoons for centuries. As one point hits the target it causes the round to flip over and turn perpendicular to the surface of windscreen. Fusing will be an inertia fuse with a short delay. Warhead is probably some form of shaped charge.
    Adhesive smoke projectiles   These are intended to be fired from M203s, 3BTs or disposable grenade launchers to mark targets for air or artillery strikes.  The shell shatters on impact and the contents stick to the target and produce a column of smoke. This allows a building to be marked high up where the signal is more visible and also allows mobile targets such as vehicles to be marked. Ideally this round should also be visible at night to both the naked eye and night vision systems.  It is possible that this role could be performed by a grenade filled with some variant of napalm. In this case the round would also find other uses. 

    Hand Grenades, Trip Mines and Flare Guns.

    Multi-Option Grenade Fusing.
            An electronic grenade fuse is not only more reliable and consistent, it can also have several fusing options.
    These may be: -
    • Short delay.

    • Long delay (for rifle launched use)

    • Impact with long delay.

    • Impact with "no delay" -in fact a very long delay for self-destruction. This setting is used for when dropping from tall buildings, cliff tops, helicopters etc.

    • Booby-trap. Grenade explodes when pin is removed UNLESS the safety lever is being held -in this case the fuse defaults to short delay.

    Combined Rifle-Hand Grenades.
            A combined hand and rifle grenade, as proposed could have the following mechanism:-

      • In the hand thrown mode it should have a conventional appearing safety lever and pin arrangement.

      • For muzzle launching the fuse would be activated by the acceleration of launching or by the bullet impacting the bullet trap.

           Some mechanism will be needed to prevent the pin and lever mechanism being used if the grenade is fixed to the muzzle. Most useful way to do this is to have the lever automatically locked in position when the barrel is inserted into the tail unit.

            The most practical arrangement I see is to have the tail unit telescoping out of the "top" of the grenade, where the fuse and lever are. In fact the lever and pin would be attached to the end of the tail, allowing the lever to be held in by the hand when the tail is deployed and the grenade is used as a hand-thrown stick grenade. The obstruction of the barrel in the tail unit would prevent the safety lever ejecting, or better still prevent the pin being removed.   In the hand-thrown mode the loss of the safety lever completes an electrical circuit that activates the fuse system in the main grenade body. For such a grenade it is important that the stabilising fins of the tail are unlikely to catch on the fingers when the grenade is hand thrown in "stick" mode.   Electronic fusing will probably be needed for a one-piece rifle-hand grenade.

            Another consideration is that the projectile should also be compatible with 7.62x51mm rifles and 9mm and .45 submachine guns.  A practice version of the grenade in rifle launched configuration should be built that can be launched by blank rounds but has the same trajectory as the live grenade propelled by a ball round.
            Training could be an up-dated version of the medieval game of "Rover" -essentially Golf using a longbow. The soldier would move over a course of rural and urban terrain with targets at varying ranges and elevations, and be required to hit each with a practice grenade.

            The Dutch had a Mini- hand grenade that had a body the same size as a golf ball. Casualty radius was about the same as that of a M203 round. Mini-grenades could be built by marrying M203 warheads with a different fuse.   Large numbers of these mini-grenades could be carried and they could be thrown to a respectable distance.  
    Such weapons may be useful for house clearing or covert operations. For the latter application smoke bomb and tear gas variants would be useful too. The two chemical rounds would have cylindrical bodies rather than spherical and be textured so they could be distinguished by touch in the dark. I suggest a corrugated surface for Tear gas; smooth for smoke.

    Rocket Assisted Hand Grenades
            "Defence Today" 27th April 1988 reported that China was offering a Type 79 "Rocket Assisted Hand Grenade". This is best described as a small, cut-down Panzerfaust with a blind ended launch tube. Calibre was 45mm, weight was 650gms and range was 400m. I think the warhead had a casualty radius of 8-9m, but I can't recall if the warhead was HEAT-MP or just frag'.

    Anti-Tank Hand Grenades
            The hollow charge anti-tank hand grenade was first developed in WW2 by the Germans. The Russians have continued to manufacture and use such weapons.   Allegedly, using these grenades has hazards other than having to be in close proximity to a hostile tank. The radius of the fragments is not much less than the maximum throwing range.

            It's questionable as to whether such weapons are still useful.   For normal infantry I'm inclined to answer no -such forces usually have access to alternate systems such as rifle grenades and LAWs.   Where they are useful is in the arsenals of Covert and Special forces.  Such units may be using weapons that are incompatible with rifle grenades or be unable to conceal larger weapons. Since the targets these are used on are mainly soft skinned or lightly armoured such grenades may prove very effective.

            Any new model of Anti-tank Hand Grenade should be mainly made of material that does not fragment and utilise pre-formed fragments arranged to spread in a cylindrical rather spherical pattern, as has been done for the Telegren rifle grenades.  I've not encountered any details of how the Russians used their grenades, but I expect that an effective tactic would be two grenadiers engaging a target simultaneously, supported by screening smoke. In an urban environment grenades could be thrown down onto the top armour of vehicles.

    Gammon Bombs
            The Gammon Bomb was a WW2 grenade used by airborne forces, resistance fighters and special forces. Some sources attribute the name to a Lt. Gammon of the 1st Parachute battalion, others to the shape of the item.   It consisted of an All-ways impact fuse and a stockinette bag. The idea was that the user added a charge of plastic explosive to suit the intended use -half a stick for an anti-personnel concussion grenade; three or four for demolitions or anti-vehicular use. No doubt scraps of metal were sometimes added as fragments.

            Without explosive several grenades could be rolled up and fitted in the bottom of a pocket. Even when charged the grenade could be packed in various crannies since the only inflexible part was the fuse.  One cannot help but wonder if this malleability gave the grenade a HESH effect on some targets.  A modern Gammon bomb could use a programmable electronic fuse, allowing it to be placed as well as thrown. I also suggest that the bomb be given an integral charge of its own, so that it is always capable of being used as a weapon. Additional plastique would be packed around the outside of this charge.  This last strategy will suggest to some readers that one can field improvise Gammon bombs by packing plastique around other hand grenades and maybe enclosing the charge in a plastic bag.

    "Nice" WP
            This is a grenade that has the same effects as a Phosphorus grenade without the storage dangers.   A bursting charge is surrounded with pre-formed fragments (shrapnel) held in a matrix of air-reactive smoke compound. The grenade therefore has screening and antipersonnel applications.  If the explosive is thermally enhanced it can also serve as an incendiary.

    Foam grenades
            I once came across an idea for a foam grenade. This seemed like a good idea for police, particularly if it could be used as a hand-spray or a grenade.  It is possible such devices could be used in MOUT and may see offensive use too. After all, Dry ice (Carbon Dioxide) is used to produce smoke screens for TV.

    Trip Mines
            This is an explosive charge about the size and shape of a cigarette packet.  It is fitted with either a motion detector, a laser tripwire or an infra-red sensor. An adhesive pad allows the mine to be stuck to walls or tree trunks as well as being placed on the ground.  Trip mines could be quickly scattered behind a unit to hinder pursuit. This would be very useful for small raiding units.   A variant that can be remotely deactivated can be used for perimeter defense.

    Flare Guns
            Although an essential item of equipment, flare guns are often overlooked.  Not only can they provide illumination, but they may also at times be a more useful signalling device than even radio.

    "Flares are terribly underused. They make excellent target identification aids at night when using air assets. Firing a flare at the enemy has a pretty good psychological impact and will destroy their night vision for quite a while as well."
    Light Infantry Page.

            Flares can also be useful incendiary projectiles.  During WW2 the Germans developed at least two models of grenade throwing flare pistol. Hecker and Koch have continued this concept with a discharger cup and barrel insert that fits some models of their flare pistols.  There are, however, tactically more flexible ways to launch grenades:

         An adapter could be made that allows grenade projection from unmodified flare guns. One end clips on to the grenade and safety lever while the other is inserted in the flaregun barrel.  An interesting possibility is that the tail could contain a captive piston, making grenade use flashless and quiet. This would be useful during night combat and in close range operations.  As well as the hand grenade adapter a supercalibre flare for large scale illumination could also be built.

            The other combat flare round that most suggests itself is a 1" calibre "Shotshell" -although the round could also contain a cloud of HC smoke or riot agent.  Another idea for flare guns is to build a 12 gauge barrel insert that is longer than the flare gun's barrel. Such a device would convert the flare gun into a survival shotgun for aircrews.

      Future Infantry Anti-Armour and Support Launchers

            Infantry anti-tank launchers exist in both disposable and re-loadable forms.  Both types are needed, since disposable one-use weapons give each individual in the squad an anti-tank capability, while reloadable weapons form a more manageable load for anti-armour specialists that may need to make more than a couple of shots.  Some companies, such as Bazalt seem to be considering uniting the two types. This idea can either be though of as upgrading expendable launchers by adding better sighting units and mountings, or as having launcher reloads that can also be fired from their carrying containers. I'll detail my own ideas about such a "Universal" launcher later 

           "Anti-tank" is in fact something of a misnomer. Ever since their introduction such weapons have been used against personnel, machine gun nests, trucks, buildings and anything else that the user takes exception. This is recognised by some designers who offer a variety of warhead types. Many weapons are now regarded as multi-purpose support systems and are now being used to deliver liquid-incendiary, thermobaric and smoke warheads as well as the more traditional explosive loads. There is some merit to the statement that such weapons can replace artillery under certain conditions. A platoon of men could carry more than a score of weapons like the RPO-Shmel, giving them a considerable destructive capability against any target within a kilometer range.

    Multi-Purpose launcher/ RPG 2000

    The launcher and shells. The Carl Gustaf M3 has the power and versatility to combat heavy armour, APCs, landing craft or entrenched troops. The key to its versatility, whatever the threat, is its new generation of highly effective ammunition.
          The M3 Carl Gustav is a good weapon, but I think an RPG configuration would be more useful. Such a weapon is easier for a single operator to re-load, the launch tube is less bulky and different calibres of projectile can be launched from the same tube. Use of small calibre rounds for certain tasks will allow more rounds to be carried.  Being capable of both high angle and direct fire, this weapon partially fills the niches of anti-tank system, light mortar and grenade launcher. I can see this as being a useful platoon level support weapon.

            What I term the RPG 2000 is an RPG 7 type weapon, very simple and possibly with ammo compatible with the RPG-7. Most likely, the weapon will fire both standard RPG ammo and dedicated rounds with a Davis-style system using liquid counter-shot for a low signature launch. It may be that only the ammo needs to be developed; the RPG-7 as it stands is probably strong and versatile enough to handle counter-shot technology.

            Ammo types:-
            Rounds that have a rocket motor will be referred to as "Rockets", while those that are projected by the just a propelling charge are referred to as "Bombs". Some warheads could use components of existing mortar rounds or rifle grenades.

    • Large calibre HEAT-MP-Frag rocket, maybe based on the Brunswick RAW.

    • Smaller calibre smoke bomb.

    • Parachute Illumination round -either a rocket or bomb.

    • Small multipurpose HE or HEDP bomb for high angle fire.

    • Incendiary rounds or small antipersonnel rockets are also possible- similar rounds already exist for the RPG 7.

    • Long range rocket for stand-off attacks on soft targets. Possibly this round can use ramjet propulsion. The range limiting factor for standard RPG rounds is a self-destruct mechanism that operates after 4.5sec, limiting range to 920m. A long range rocket would have the option of extending the time to self-destruction.

    Disposable launchers
            Two improvements are usually called for by the users of Disposable anti-tank weapons.  Most common request is for the ability for the launcher to be fired from confined spaces such as the interior of buildings. This can be achieved by using a captive piston design with plastic counter-shot.  The second is for the launch tube to have some form of pistol grip so that it can be brought into action more rapidly.  Both of these criteria are met by the German Armburst launcher. Like most disposable launchers the Armburst has a warhead the same calibre as its launch tube (67mm), which puts it in a similar class to the M72A2. 

          This needn't be the case.  It is quite possible to build a disposable launcher with a supercalibre warhead -in fact the earliest of design of launcher (the Panzerfaust) was of this form.  Using a supercalibre warhead in an Armburst launch tube offers several advantages.

    1. A bigger warhead.

    2. Since the warhead is now external, space inside the launch tube can be taken up by a larger rocket motor.

    3. The warhead can be removed from the motor. This may make the launcher easier to transport, or allow the user to exchange the warhead for one of a different type.

            The possibility therefore exists that the standard Armburst could replace the M72 while a supercalibre version based on the same launcher could replace the M136.


            The potential of disposable light anti-tank weapons could also be greatly enhanced if some form of guidance mechanism was incorporated. For a disposable weapon the most practical system would probably be wire guidance with a TCA/SACLOS system.. Such a weapon should also incorporate a low signature launch system.  Such weapons could be used at Squad level, and therefore supplement or replace the M47 Dragon.
    New ideas for the Brunswick Rifleman's Assault Weapon (RAW)

            The Brunswick RAW was an interesting weapon that showed considerable destructive potential. In form it was a spherical 6" diameter rocket propelled rifle grenade. The original model had a HESH warhead but later models had a HEAT warhead with a laser proximity fuse. The Launch mechanism was also quite novel. The grenade fitted in a bracket under the rifle's muzzle and some of the gas from firing a ball round was diverted to launch the grenade.  Whilst the warhead was effective, it was probably the launching mechanism that prevented the concept catching on.  Two improvements suggest themselves.
    • Firstly, to give the grenade its own propellant charge in a launch tube that mounts underneath the fore-end of the rifle. This would be more efficient and better balanced.

    • The second is to take the warhead, mate it to a rocket motor and fire it from a low signature recoilless launch tube to create a lightweight but potent LAW system.

    Alternatives to Anti-Material Rifles

    There are other cheap solutions to light armour other than AMRs:-

            One is to produce small high speed rockets for weapons like the RPG 2000.   A four barrelled launcher based on the 66mm M202 but loaded with HEAT/HEDP rockets is another option, and this may have other applications such as being an alternative to SMAW.  Like the SMAW this launcher might use a spotting rifle. The spotting rifle would be a "Sten gun-like" weapon in its simplicity, and several rounds for this would be issued with each rocket reload.        

         The original M202 was issued with Incendiary or Tear gas rockets. Various other projectiles may be possible, including anti-bunker rounds. The M72A3 rocket may form a good starting point for the HEAT rocket, while the HEDP equivalent could have a HESH warhead.   Multiple rocket launchers made from Bazookas were used as trench artillery in Korea, so a similar weapon may still prove useful for other applications.

            Another idea of an anti-light armour weapon is a repeating Recoilless Rifle of 25-40mm. A revolver mechanism would probably be simplest, and by diverting countershot gas from the barrel rather than the breech it may be feasible to use standard cannon shells as ammo.

            Disposable recoilless guns are also possible. The Swedish Mini-Man 58mm weapons fill a role similar to the M72. Light armoured vehicles could also be attacked by disposable recoilless launchers loaded with small calibre supersonic projectiles. Such weapons might also give an infantryman capability against helicopters or have sniping applications.

    Universal Launchers

            The complete system comprises of a launch tube/carrying case, sighting unit and a rest. Unlike systems such as the M 47 Dragon the launch tube has its own sights and trigger, so the rocket can be fired from the launch tube without the other components being attached.  All soldiers carrying rounds can therefore fire them themselves. Anti-armour specialists are distinguished by having a superior sighting system and mounting.  I can see such a system having a family of projectiles. These may include:

    • A high capacity smoke round, possibly of around 120mm calibre.

    • Rounds of 85-105mm. These would include Anti-tank, Thermobaric, Flame-capsule and a smaller tactical smoke round.

    • Small projectiles. A general purpose HEDP round of 60-75mm and a High Velocity Anti-Light Armour round.

    • Illumination round. This would in fact be an expendable one-shot mortar tube that is usually used on its own.

         All of these rounds (with the exception of the ILL round) would use a captive piston system for low launch signature and confined space launch. Some projectiles may incorporate guidance systems.  The Sighting Unit would incorporate Day/Night optics, a rangefinder and a ballistic computer. Other devices such as motion trackers may also be fitted. On one side of the unit is a pylon that can accommodate different sizes of launch tube. Some mechanism for the sighting unit to recognise the type of round loaded will also be fitted.   The mounting unit may be an adjustable bipod as is used by the M47, or may be a machine gun tripod. Vehicle mounts are also likely.

          Western armies have ignored new infantry weapons for quite some time.  Other armies may prove more inventive and deliver nasty surprises in the future.

                    Phil West    phil.west@angelfire.com


    Future Infantry Weapons

            Following feedback from my infantry weapons articles I now think that the most practical approach to produce a rifle-hand grenade is to adapt a rifle grenade design to hand throwing. A weapon like the FN Telgren is similar in size to a hand grenade in its un-telescoped state (40 x 190mm). All that is really needed is a pin, safety lever and new fusing mechanism. Since the fuse will need to be changed a multi-option model can be fitted, as has been described.

            40x46mmSR grenades for the M203 could also be adapted for hand throwing. The nose of the grenade could be fitted with a flip-up cap to expose an manual actuator. Such "Pop-top" grenades would fill the mini-grenade role described in my previous article. I can't really claim any credit for this idea -the grenade rounds in the movie "Aliens" had this feature.

            While on the subject of M203 grenades it is worth considering the idea that these rounds could have a composite casing -brass around the propellant charge with an aluminum or polymer casing for the expansion chamber. This will lighten the soldier's load, as well as decreasing the chance of unpredictable fragmentation in the hand thrown mode.

            The disposable Grenade Launcher offers several advantages over both rifle grenades and grenade cartridges, but I was uncertain that it could be adapted to hand throwing. Large components such as parts of the trigger mechanism seemed likely to carry far enough to endanger the thrower. The obvious answer is to design the device so that the trigger unit needs to be detached to arm the weapon for hand throwing. This would just leave the grenade, the launching spigot and the outer case -something about the size of a tin can/offensive grenade.

            There has also been interest in the idea of launching grenades from mortars.  A rifle-hand grenade as described above could easily be adapted to mortar launch by fitting it with a 60mm disc mounting a propellant charge. I doubt such projectiles would have sufficient range for company fire support missions, but for platoon support (in commando mortars) their use would conserve mortar bombs for longer range fire. Grenades adapted to mortar fire would be lighter than bombs, so less of a burden to the unit.

             An idea I forgot to put in the article was that of mounting a disposable launcher like the RPO on a bracket on the outside of a vehicle, maybe in an armoured box. This would be fired by cable or electrical circuit and form a sort of "one shot assault gun"
             A variation of this as a light vehicle tank hunter role is shown at

                                                            Phil West    phil.west@angelfire.com